Dream. You cannot fail.

From the archive: This is from my book Refuse to be Afraid.

“Self-help” is an entire category of book; an industry has grown around materials that give people advice about how to live a more successful life. I think the reason more people don’t find success is that they spend more time studying the principles than putting the principles into action.

One question I find frequently in such materials is: What would you do today, right here and right now, if you knew you could not fail? A corollary of the question: What would you do today, right here and right now, if money was no object?

The point of posing these questions is to remove obstacles to your thinking process. Too often creativity is held back by fear of failure or by the perception that a great deal of money is required to launch whatever endeavor you may be considering.

Therefore it’s a liberating and exciting exercise to set your mind free by imagining you can’t fail and/or that you can afford everything you need to succeed. But one more step is necessary to pop your dream over the top and into reality.

Imagine this: You’re not imagining things.

You cannot fail. Money is no object.

I need you to ponder that carefully, I need that to sink in, so I’m going to repeat it.

You cannot fail. Money is no object.

When you set your mind on a vision that fires up your dreams, it’s as if the forces of the universe align to make it happen. Try not to think too hard about why that’s true, but understand it is true. 

It’s popular to refer to this as The Law of Attraction. Books have been written about it, most recently and famously The Secret. which brings to a modern audience the concepts Wallace Wattles described in The Science of Getting Rich. I am not sure I buy the idea that a creative universal stuff exists to form the future into what we will, but I do agree with Wattles that we are born to be creative, not competitors, and there’s plenty of stuff for everyone.

And I do know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. How and why that happens is not necessarily important. Maybe it’s simply that people sense your enthusiasm and are drawn to help. Maybe it’s that catching the fire of your inner passion generates an energy that makes you do what’s necessary. Maybe God rewards the fact that your passion and energy finally align with how He designed you; yep, that’s how I envision it, but if you have issues with the idea of supernatural power, don’t dwell on it. The important thing is overcoming the illusion that you might fail.

Just know that dreams are contagious. When you set your mind on a vision that fires up your dreams, something makes it begin to happen. Understanding that you cannot fail ignites the dreams.

James Allen explained it best in his motivational classic As A Man Thinketh: “All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe, where loss of equipoise would mean total destruction, individual responsibility must be absolute. A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and his happiness are evolved from within. As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.”

Allen set forth a truth that Henry Ford stated even more succinctly: Whether you think you’ll succeed or you think you’ll fail, you’re right. 

Most people — if they even bother to go through the exercise and answer a question like “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” — feel a burst of creative energy, get in touch with their dreams and inner passion, and then step back and think, “Well, that was an interesting exercise. Too bad for all the reasons why I can’t do that stuff.”

The people who succeed find a way to stay in touch with that inner passion. They discover that it wasn’t just a mental exercise.

What would you do today, right now and right here, if you knew you could not fail? Hang onto that thought, because here comes the kicker: It’s true. Refuse to be afraid, free yourself and hang onto your dream, and you cannot fail. So you may as well get started.

On the road to dreaming big

I am working my way a second time through Bob Goff’s book Dream Big, but this time I’m doing the exercises he recommends along the way. He starts with three big questions: Who are you? Where are you? What do you want?

Who am I? A guy who likes to string words and sounds together as melodically as I can. Where am I? Stuck. What do I want? To get unstuck.

In answer to one of Bob’s prompts, “Are there some recurring themes in your behaviors and choices?” I wrote in all-caps, “PEACE. NONVIOLENCE. PUPPIES.” 

Being less glib, I recognize that a recurring theme in my behavior is what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance — a reluctance to move my dreams ahead — to finish my work, to get better at my musical instrument(s), to learn my craft — not so much the craft of writing, but the craft of shipping it out to willing customers (and I keep shaping that thought in terms of “customers,” rather than people who share my love of words and stories and songs. I suspect that’s part of the problem.)

It’s not that I don’t think my stuff is any good — the three novels-in-progress are the best I’ve ever crafted, but something pathological in me won’t finish them. Am I afraid that even my best isn’t good enough for the world? That would be so silly, and I don’t believe that’s the issue.

I suspect I have a touch of agoraphobia. Red was so worried that I might become a hermit that among her last entreaties to me was not to be one. I do tend to retreat into myself on a routine basis. I identified with the character in my friend Linda R. Spitzfaden’s novel The Other Side of Everything who wanted to step outside but was unable to do so for reasons no one could understand.

I want to finish my novels and go out into the world and be the wordsmith and podcaster and novelist and singer-songwriter who have always been lurking in my soul — I want to be Ray Bradbury and Judee Sill and Uncle Warren and Paul Harvey and e.e. cummings. They are in there, bursting to leap out and show the world what they’ve got. “I got the Resistance and I got it bad,” each of them says in turn and then goes back into hiding.

Another unfinished project is that I have struggled to sit down and write thank-you notes to all the people who sent me condolences or came to Red’s funeral two months ago. I wrote a note to myself Sunday night: “GET UNSTUCK. Monday: Write one thank-you note. Write one paragraph of Jeep. Write one paragraph of (other unannounced work in progress). Buy stamps.”

OK, that last one was everyday life trying to sneak back in. Everyday life is my favorite excuse for the recurring theme that I know what to do and I just — won’t — do it. “Yumping Yiminy, Uncle Warren, break out of the damn rut and be who you are!” I concluded my journal entry.

I’m pleased to report that before I sat down to post this Monday morning, I wrote my first thank-you note, I wrote several short paragraphs for Jeep Thompson and The Lost Prince of Venus, and I wrote several short paragraphs for (other unannounced work in progress). It’s not much, but it’s a start, and if I rinse and repeat every day, I think I can start dreaming big again.

When we live despite the urge to fear

[Drawn from the archives, June 17, 2020 – now THAT was a year! Also reprinted in Echoes of Freedom Past, one of my 2022 books.]

Fear is an ugly thing. It contorts the face, boils the gut, and manifests in every unhealthy emotion – anger, worry, hatred. Fear can spread across the land, a virus more deadly than any microbe.

“Fear is the mind-killer,” Frank Herbert wrote: It robs us of our reason, strips love and compassion from our hearts, and brings out the monster in us.

The children of fear are slavery, tyranny and war.

When we overcome fear, we rise.

When we rise, we turn our faces to the sun.

When we turn our faces to the sun, we begin to live. The sun nourishes, warms, gives life to the dying. Without the sun, we die in darkness.

When we live despite the urge to fear, without loathing, without anger and hatred and all of that – when we stand instead of cowering, in other words – our spirits become invincible.

When our spirits are invincible, we have no need for the darkness.

The spirit of love is fragile and beautiful and strong and powerful all at once. It takes courage to shout love at the heart of darkness, but it’s lighter, more free, an antidote for terror, and healthier for the soul.

An ounce of love is more powerful than tons of gunpowder. Love slices souls more surely than the sharpest knife. Fear is a poison; love an elixir.

I would say that I loathe fear, and I do, but loathing is a byproduct of fear and the world has enough loathing.

Better to say that in my most sane moments, I set the anger and the hatred and the anxiety aside, burying them in a place where I am free to love and to live and to laugh and to cry with joy.

Would you rather be safe or free?

From the archives: I wrote this in 1999, not long after the infamous shootings at Columbine High School. I really can’t add anything 24 years later.

Would you rather be safe or free?

Those are the choices, you know. There are ways you can try to protect yourself and your children from the possibility that the events of Littleton, Colo., never again happen. But the only way to do it is to lock us all in cages.

You can have a society where no one tells you what church to attend, where no one monitors what you read, write or say, where no one keeps you from going to a Packers game or driving to see an old friend in Missouri.

But you run the risk that someone else may worship Satan or Hitler, that someone may read, write or say persuasively hateful things, that someone at the Packer game may try to sell you a $40 ticket for $250, that bad people will use the Interstate to transport illegal goods or kidnap your daughter.

So the solution is to regulate what church you can go to, what you read and write and say, and place checkpoints at city limits and state borders.

You can have a society where you are free to protect your property or defend your person, or to hunt and feed your family.

But you run the risk that someone with a sick mind will arm himself and kill you or your children.

So the solution is to make sure only the police and military have weapons.

You can have a society where, if you obey the law, no police officer or military unit will ever knock on your door and search through your personal belongings or drag you down to the county jail.

But you run the risk that your next-door neighbor is manufacturing narcotics in his basement or scheming to overthrow the government.

So the solution is a police state.

You can have a society where, if you are accused of a crime, no one can throw you in jail without proof, or torture a confession out of you,  or force you to testify under oath that you did it — even if you did it.

But you run the risk that murderers will occasionally escape justice, or criminals get out of prison and commit new crimes.

So the solution is to lock us all up.

When you have a free society, there will be times when someone abuses his or her freedom and harms someone else, perhaps even kills someone else.

The only way to try to prevent such abuses is to take away our freedoms.

And the bad things will not go away.

Confiscate our guns, and criminals will use knives or bombs made of pipe or fertilizer — or steal guns — and we will be defenseless.

Regulate what the media reports, and you lose the right to know what’s happening. Regulate the Internet and you depend on the government to inform you. Regulate what singers can sing, writers can write,  and painters can paint, and you begin to lose life itself.

And even then, you will not be safe. You will only have built a cage and crawled in. It will be easier for evil to find you when it decides to look.

So how to prevent future school shootings?

Teach children right from wrong. Teach them to cherish life and other living things. Teach them good choices from bad. And punish them when they do wrong, when they harm living things, when they choose badly.

Our nation, this bold experiment, has thrived because of the notion that the only limit on my freedom is that it not impose on yours. The most defining speech of our history concludes, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Sometimes the people of the world look at America and says, “How can they tolerate such things!” But most of the time they envy America and wish to live in a society as tolerant as ours. Immigration has always outpaced emigration because of our promise. 

We must live free. Or we die.

– – –

This essay and more have since become part of my book Refuse to be Afraid. Just sayin’

You are a work of art

I walk down the long corridor between the hospital and the Cancer Center, where my darling Red has been transferred, turn a corner, and find an art gallery in the hallway.

“You are a work of art,” says the first sign that greets the eye, and we are, aren’t we? Every day, every moment, we are considering what image to paint for our friends and colleagues, what words we will use, in order to create — a thing of beauty? something tremendously useful? something to amuse and/or entertain? a highway? a perfect set of braces? the correct mix of potent chemicals to drive away a deadly disease?

The first few times I walked down this corridor, I was deep in my own thoughts and fears and questions. Today, I’m going to try to remember to stop and look at the paintings and photos on the wall. Artists created those visions, and another artist or artists chose and arranged them. They want me to see them, and I need to see them.

Red received her first chemotherapy treatment this week at the center 138 miles from our home. I have tried to visit every other day, sometimes it’s three days between. Day job responsibilities and the limits of my own body stand in the way. She is fighting a scourge that baffled our local doctors for nearly three months before they sent us here. I believe in the folks here, and in the prayers of friends and family, and I believe in Red, the toughest cookie I have ever known.

She is a work of art, and a treasure.

W.B. stages a book sale

The second edition of Echoes of Freedom Past, my book about reclaiming our liberty after the assaults of the last few years, goes live Tuesday, and to mark the occasion I’m having a little sale on my “trilogy” of books about the subject.

Echoes is a collection drawn from this blog on the subject of freedom and the Bill of Rights, the increasing attacks on those rights culminating with the unprecedented forced (and now proven fruitless) lockdowns that authoritarians sold as necessary, and what we can do to reclaim and restore some semblance of a free society.

A few months later I released it’s going to be all right, which I conceived as a book of encouragements about living and thriving with hope in troubled times. For more than a decade now, people have grown angrier and meaner and more afraid, and I think those are words we desperately need to share at such times: It’s going to be all right.

These are themes I first collected a decade ago in a little book called Refuse to be Afraid, in which I talked about how scare tactics have become so much a part of our lives, from advertising to politics, and it’s important to keep calm and not to act out the fear that makes us do foolish things sometimes — like willingly surrender our freedom for a false promise of security.

The second edition of Echoes of Freedom Past is not a revision so much as a reshuffling to make it flow a little better. The print book is a more standard size with higher quality paper than the first edition. The short story “Letters from Camp” is placed in the back, rather than smack dab in the middle, to better highlight my dystopian fantasy about living in a re-education camp with other folks who saw the government as something other than a kindly charity during the virus scare.

For the first week that the second edition is on sale, the ebook will be on sale for a mere 99 cents at amazon.com, and I’ve also dropped the price of Refuse to be Afraid and it’s going to be all right for those seven days. If you’ve been thinking about picking up one or more of my books, now is as good a time as ever, as you can reap these three collections into your e-readers for a mere $2.97, less than the price of one ebook at the regular price.

My books are all also available in fine print-on-demand versions as well, of course, so you can have my breathless prose in your possession even after the interwebs collapse.

Take advantage of this rare opportunity, leave reviews to help others find the books as well, and thank you very much.

Daring to dream on a cold, windy day

I have always needed to create. Our father took scrap paper home from work, with dittoed or mimeographed stuff on one side, and we drew and wrote on the blank side. Comic books, songs, maps of imaginary countries — when I had a blank in front of me, I felt I had to fill it with something.

And so it is with these journals. Even if it’s silly or incoherent nonsense, I feel better if I’ve filled a page or three, and oh how sweet when I can’t stop and suddenly am well down the road to 10 or more pages.

I have a legal pad next to me this morning, hoping to scribble a map of the remaining chapters of my novel in progress, or the rest of my novelette/novella, or two of the other novels I’ve stalled on.

But I have cat food and dog foods and stamps to buy, and newspaper stories and photos to develop — bills to pay, places to go — and there’s a windstorm blowing snow around outside.

By the time I am 80, or when I am finished, whichever comes first, I want to have told the story I envision that takes Jeep Thompson and her friends over six novels; it would be nice to extend her friends’ stories into their own series; and finish some of those other unfinished novels and write the novel that’s only a concept today; and preserve as many of the books that Roger Mifflin loved as I can; and tell more of Myke Phoenix’s adventures — they’d have to be novellas or novels, because otherwise the title of the “Complete Novelettes” book would become a lie.

I have all these pretty stories to tell, and maybe I can release them if I do it just for the halibut — forget those dreams about someday paying the bills with the proceeds from my stories, just telling the stories for the fun of it, and if the stories pay the bills, that’s nice, but if the bills get paid by making newspapers and selling my mountains of old stuff, that’s nice too.

Dark worries come next — If I can’t remember what Red told me a minute ago or asked me to do five minutes ago, how can I piece together stories and books anyway? — but those worries are the enemy, nipping at my heels. Who is this enemy? Not the fading of my head, but fear of the fading. I stand (figuratively) and put fear behind me. 

I will tell the stories and pay the bills and all the rest, even though first I must feed the cat and dogs and find the calm in the storm. The wind chimes by my window defy the storm with music, and so shall I.